Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
I have found it is very hard to keep a blog while traveling. Kudos to those who can manage to do both!
We just arrived in Ibiza, it's 4:15AM. Long story, and I'll get to it in due time. Let me first start with London.
We arrived in London around 2PM or so after an early flight out of Prague. We literally got off of the plane on the tarmac and had to make a running dash for the terminal because the rain was coming down so hard. WELCOME TO LONDON!! Luckily I had my hoodie with me but Angelica got completely drenched in the 30 second dash. But hey that's london. Cloudy and overcast with rain 24/7.
After a siesta (it's become our MO for traveling: flight, followed by siesta) we mapped out what we wanted to see in London and took a tour of the town. We hit many highlights in the first day: We started by taking the metro down to the Tower of London, and seeing the London Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Then we followed the Thames along to St. Pauls. Luckily for me, Angelica only wanted photos. I've been to London twice before and wasn't really interested in entering in all of the churches and seeing all of the museums again. Angelica is more of the take the picture and bag it type of person. Especially in London as she later found the city to be rather ugly and boring. I told her the weather is always bad in London even in July but she didn't believe me. She also isn't a fan of all the grey rock used for the buildings. But having come out of Prague and Amsterdam one could understand why she wasn't very intrigued by London. She told me she thought as the "international capital of the world", it would be a prettier place. Then we hopped on a bus, did some of the street tours, went along the Strand, Trafalgar Square, etc on to Westminster. We took photos of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey, and then called it a day. Well a night at that point. We got some good night shots of Westminster and Big Ben, the London Eye, etc. The next day, (Wednesday, July 8th), we began the day walking through Hyde Park, making our way for Buckingham Palace. Our hotel was right off of the park to the north and we were able to see a lot of it. I was especially hoping to find the new memorial for the July 7th bombings of the London underground that had been opened and dedicated the day before, but was unsuccessful. They had yet to put up signs for it and it was a secondary goal anyway so I let it go. Still raining of course, but it let up every now and then. We were able to eat lunch in the park before going to the Palace. After the palace we walked to Trafalgar Square and took photos there with the lions and in front of the National Gallery, etc. We then headed back to the Westminster Abbey because Angelica wanted better photos than we had taken the night before.
Thursday we spent mainly in the hotel because Angelica somehow managed to pull something in her foot. She had been wearing sandals and slip-on shoes the entire trip and told me she was not a big fan of tennis shoes. Or regular shoes for that matter. I am still trying to convince her that sandals don't work for three weeks of touring and traveling haha. She still has yet to agree though. She's got a number of blisters, cuts, etc. from wearing sandals day in and day out but that doesn't seem to help my argument at all. Brazilians are a stubborn bunch ;) However spending the day inside allowed me to put up all my photos and write in my blog some too. Also I was able to watch satellite television so I was feeling right at home :)
Then Friday the 10th we went to the British Museum and Madame Tussauds. British Museum hasn't changed much since the last time I was there although I spent more time in the Asian and Middle East sections because I had yet to see them. Pretty interesting, and definitely a nice change from Western art and history. Madame Tussauds was Angelica's idea. I didn't know this but apparently Madame Tussauds is in pretty much every major city. But they all have a huge collection of wax replicas of stars, celebrities, historical figures, politicians, etc. and you can take your photo with all of them. So of course the one in London had more to do with British stars but at the same time a lot of celebs, politicians that are known all over the world. So we paid the steep 25 pounds / person and entered to take photos (see photos section). I didn't post all of them because we took a million photos. They had to create a line (or as they say in England, a 'queue' hahaha. ohh brits are so funny with their words) for the replica of Michael Jackson. They also had Hitler, Ghandi, Obama of course, Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr, James Dean, John Wayne, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock (spelling), etc. That night we packed up and left for the airport (not Heathrow once again, another one named Stansted). It was a pain! I asked our hotel guy for directions on how to get there and he totally led me astray. We took the underground to Marble Arch only to find out about an hour later that the bus to the airport does not pick up there, only drop off. So we headed to another nearby bus/train station, Marylebone, and the information guy there was clueless too. At this point it was maybe 10PM, and things were beginning to close. So we ended up taking the metro again to the big train station in London, Victoria. We then had to leave Victoria Station for the Victoria Coach Station which for some reason is not attached to the train station. Then we were directed to wait at one bus stop only to find out that there was an earlier bus to the airport leaving from a different platform. So we ran to that platform and as soon as we had boarded we left for the airport. It was absolute madness. We finally arrived in the airport around midnight for our 8:30am flight to Rome. Can anyone say sleeping in the airport?! woooooooo. It was our last night doing so (we had once before at the beginning of the trip in Milan). It's cheap, you don't have to pay for a room, but it's painfully uncomfortable.
So Saturday the 11th was our flight to Rome. Rather uneventful, only that it was Ryanair so not very comfortable either. Ryanair does cheap flights, but they are real cheapskates. If your bag doesn't fit in the overhead compartment they charge you 30 pounds to put it underneath the plane. There's also a 10 Kg limit for carryons and 15 Kg for checked items. Plus all of their pilots let the 1st officer fly the plane so he can gain experience. This sounds like a good idea but it makes for very rough landings. The type where you come in with the plane rocking to the left and right as the 1st officer tries to level the plane and then where you bounce a couple times on the tarmac before landing for good. Everyone always claps at the end too. Happy to be alive I guess.
Sometimes too they do they acceleration for liftoff real fast and it can be nerve racking. Our flight from Rome to Ibiza was that way. We literally made the turn to approach the runway for take off and I vaguely heard Captain Picard from Star Trek say, "Warp Speed, engage" and we rocketed down the runway.
So we got into our hotel in Rome around 2PM only to take a siesta (we slept in an airport, give us a break!). We had taken a bus from the airport to the bus station in Rome and then our hotel was maybe a 10 minute walk. Not bad at all. This hotel also had satellite TV! (yes!) but it was in Italian (no!). Angelica apparently understands Italian (she speaks portugues and spanish and the three languages are very closely related), so she was entertained by the Italian satellite TV. They had BBC news in english too so I watched that some. We spent the first day in search of food and checking out the area close to our hotel.
The following Sunday the 12th we went immediately to Saint Peter Square. Little did I know that Sunday at noon the pope always gives some type of benediction to all of the crowd below. So we saw the Pope! He was in his apartment way up high delivering his speech, but we saw him! There are huge jumbotrons and speakers in the square that broadcast his speech so all can hear. It's rather entertaining because many people bring huge flags from their country to wave above the crowd for the Pope to see and sometimes he will recognize those countries and give them a blessing. He did his speech/benediction in Italian first, then a part in German, a part in English, and a part in Dutch I think. Good stuff. We also went and saw the tombs in St. Peters Basilica before making our way to Castelo St. Angelo. We took pictures but didn't enter because it was 8 euros we didn't want to spend haha. Plus I think Angelica at this point was getting real tired with museums and cathedrals. So we ate lunch by the Tevere river there and did some souvenir shopping in a nearby open-air market. From there we visited a number of beautiful plazas in Rome. We went to Fontana di Trevi, Plaza Navona, saw the Pantheon, Plaza Venezia, and Plaza di Spagna (Spain Plaza). They say that Rome is like an open-air museum and you can spend days just walking around looking at all the things it has to offer. It's true really. Rome is jam-packed with history and you can see pretty much something from every era there just by doing a walking tour. The photos from all of these plazas will be in the photos sections, marked with the name of the plaza when I have time to upload! After Piazza di Spagna, we went back to the hotel to rest. It was something hot in Rome, 33 degrees Celsius (not sure in F) and humid. Very little shade and lots of traveling. And also a drastic change from 3 days in London where I wore pants and brought a jacket with me at all times. We ended up eating McDonalds after being unsuccessful in our search for food around 10:30PM. The following day (Monday the 13th) we made plans to meet up with a couple of our friends who had arrived in Rome about the same time. We met in Saint Peter Square under the big obelisk in the center around 12:30 and we went into the Basilica together. The day before Angelica and I went only through the tombs where we saw a bunch of dead popes, including the tomb of Pope John Paul VI I think his name is. No photos allowed and not even the elusive Angelica could sneak a photo of John Paul's tomb. Flanked by two rude security guys, there was no photo taking happening at all.
So I finally got to see the inside of Saint Peter's Church! When I came here before with my parents in 2004 I was denied entry because I was wearing shorts. Apparently kids were allowed in with shorts but I was no longer a kid in their mind (15 years old) so I was forced to wait for everyone to go through except me and a couple others. I made sure to wear pants in Rome this time and in fact I wore pants the entire time in Rome because I didn't want to be denied entry to any church, etc. However! Since 2004 the rules have changed! Anyone can wear shorts now as long as they are not short shorts and come close to the knees. Also there's this neat little shop they added right before the entry where you can purchase a shawl type thing to cover your shoulders or if need be, to cover you legs in a dress-type fashion. It was funny I saw so many people entering in shorts and I was thinking, "what the !?!? Impossible!" So I'm a bit mad that I was denied entry and since then they have changed the rules so that pretty much every goes in unless they don't want to pay.
On a side note the inside of Saint Peter is very pretty :) we took photos naturally. For some reason it's allowed here and not in other places.
Following Saint Peter we headed to the Vatican Museum which takes you through a bunch of Catholic artwork, statues, apartments of late popes, and such where you eventually arrive at the Sistine Chapel. I didn't know this but the route for people in groups and people visiting normally is different. If you come in a group you don't go through the entire museum before the chapel, and that's kind of nice because to get through all of the museum it takes absolutely forever. And with people gawking into the next room in the doorways between rooms, traffic backs up quick. So we got held up a bit. We only wanted to see the Chapel the rest of that stuff is just fluff really (especially after having been to the Louvre, the British Museum, Van Gogh Museum, and getting ready to go to El Prado in Madrid). So we made it through and saw the Chapel. No photos allowed.
Then we found some shade outside the Vatican for a late lunch before taking the bus to the Colosseum and Roman Forum. We didn't have much time for the walkthrough of the Roman Forum and Angelica wasn't that interested in entering the Colosseum so we just followed the usual routine of taking photos and bagging it. Then we made our way back to our hotel to collect our bags and head to the train station. The airport (one of the 2) was 30 minutes by nonstop train.
We arrived in the airport and did checking, however upon arrival to our gate around 10:30 PM there was a one hour delay, which ended up being about a 1.5 hour delay. Our flight to Ibiza got in late. The town we are staying in is called Sant Antoni (San Antonio) and a taxi ride to get there is 75 euros. So that wasn't an option. Unfortunately we had to wait for the last bus that leaves from the airport at 3:15 AM. It was a 30 minute ride and we got to our hostel around 4:00 AM. However the town was very much alive (it's Ibiza after all, the Cancun of Europe). So after checking in, we were real hungry and I went back down to the streets to find something to eat. There was still a lot people out having a good time but I was able to find a 24-Hour supermarket (ironically closed the following day). That was our arrival to Ibiza! More to come in the following days! Six days until my flight home